As an HR professional, you may be wondering what it takes to drive change as LGBTQ ally in the workplace, and if you are doing enough to stand up for them at work. You might feel nervous or afraid to be more critical of LGBTQ issues at work because you don’t know the leadership team well yet. However, you should never let fear stop you from speaking up on issues that matter and could potentially save a life.
HR is the primary ally for workers of all backgrounds and it is your responsibility as an HR professional to make sure everyone feels safe and welcome. We have listed some tips to help you step up your allyship work to further support your LGBTQ employees. Even if you are shy, small gestures go a long way.
1. Establish a Safe Space
The LGBTQ community has a long history of being discriminated against in the workplace, and unfortunately, this discrimination is still very much a reality today. Before you can help anyone else, you first need to make your workplace a safe space. You can do this by talking to management about your concerns and making sure they’re aware of the steps they need to take to create a safe and welcoming environment for all employees regardless of sexual orientation.
You can also initiate work activities and initiatives to promote a safe and inclusive work environment. A key aspect of making a workplace safe is creating an open and honest dialogue about LGBTQ issues and concerns. Make it clear that you’re willing to talk about these issues and that you’re a source of help and information for your staff. By making it clear that you’re open to discussion and that you’re willing to listen, you’re sending a message that the LGBTQ community is welcome and important in your workplace.
2. Don’t Be Confused by Gender Pronouns
It is important to be aware of how to use gender pronouns when interacting with all employees, especially your LGBTQ workere. There are many different pronouns that people use to refer to themselves, and it is important to be respectful of these. You should not assume that a person is using a certain pronoun to refer to themselves because this could be very disrespectful.
If you don’t know which pronouns a person uses, it is best to ask them directly. This is because some LGBTQ people prefer to keep their pronouns private, and asking directly is the best way to ensure you are being respectful of this. If you make a mistake and accidentally misgender a worker, don’t panic. Simply apologize, correct yourself, and move on. It’s important to be sensitive and to remember that the best way to learn is to make mistakes and then correct them.
3. Educate Yourself on LGBTQ Terminology
As an HR professional, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the terminology associated with the LGBTQ community so that you know how to discuss these issues and provide support to your staff. For example, when employees are coming out, it’s important to know that they’re telling others about their LGBTQ identity.
By knowing what this term means, you can show your support to your LGBTQ employees; you can help them come out to coworkers. You can also be on the lookout for other terms that you might come across.
Some terms that are commonly used by the LGBTQ community include:
- Allies: people who support the LGBTQ community and their rights and issues
- Cisgender: a person whose gender identity is consistent with the sex that they were assigned at birth
- Denial: a refusal to acknowledge or accept the truth or reality of something
- Gay: used as an umbrella term that refers to all people who identify as LGBTQ
- Gender: refers to a person’s social and cultural identity as a man or a woman
- Heterosexual: a person who is attracted to people of the opposite sex
- Homophobia: an aversion to and a dislike or hatred of people who identify or are identified as LGBTQ
- Homosexual: used as a clinical term that refers to a person who identifies as LGBTQ
- Intersex: refers to a person who is born with a combination of male and female biological traits
- Sexual orientation: refers to an individual’s emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex, same-sex, both, or neither
- Trans or Transgender: an individual who experiences a mismatch between their gender identity and the sex they were assigned at birth
4. Celebrate All Identities
When you talk to your employees about their LGBTQ identities, it’s important to not just ask them the typical questions. Instead, you should always be looking to learn more about the different identities and how people celebrate them. For example, there are many people who celebrate their identities on specific days throughout the year. You can find out when these days are and then show your support for them.
You can also look for opportunities to celebrate all identities in your office, such as creating a Pride Month display or screening a film during Pride Week.
You should also be on the lookout for ways you can improve your office environment to be more inclusive to all identities. For example, you can ask what you can do to make your office a more inclusive place for people with disabilities; many people with disabilities identify as LGBTQ and may appreciate your efforts to make your office more inclusive.
5. Help Your Employees Come Out to You Privately
If an employee confides in you and tells you that they identify as LGBTQ, your first instinct might be to celebrate with them. However, you also need to be mindful of the fact that they likely told you in a private setting because they needed someone they could trust. In other words, they likely told you in private because they didn’t want to share the news in a place where they felt it might cause them harm. As a result, you should always be mindful of the fact that your employee shared this with you in private for a reason.
As an HR professional, you should always keep this information confidential and not tell other workers, including managers, about their identity unless they’ve given you permission to do so, even if you work in a very friendly and open company.
Being discreet about your employees' identity can help them feel more comfortable in the office, which can make it easier for them to do their job.
6. Ask LGBTQIA+ Employees for Their Feedback
If your office has a culture survey, you can ask your LGBTQ workeres to take the survey as well. Doing this can help you better understand what your employees need and want from the workplace.
You can also try sending out a survey asking people to identify as LGBTQ and asking them what they need and want from the workplace. This can help you better understand the needs of your LGBTQ colleagues and will help you create a more inclusive environment where everyone feels safe and comfortable.
You should also make an effort to attend events and workshops related to LGBTQ issues. Not only will this help you learn more about these issues, but it can also help you build relationships with your employees and colleagues. A good rule of thumb is to attend at least one event per month.
While you don’t need to be an LGBTQ ally all the time, it is important to make sure you understand what it means to be one and that you take steps to show your support for the community as an HR professional in your workplace.
To become an ally, you should educate yourself on the terminology and issues important to the LGBTQ community and celebrate all identities. You can do so by attending events and workshops, sending out a survey, and asking for their feedback. By stepping up your allyship game, you can make your office a safe space for everyone.
Consider Vubiz' Gender Identity online training course to further your knowledge on this topic.